2nd Cannae with DBA 3.0

I’ve been researching (OK, reading Wikipedia about) warfare around the turn of the 11th century in Southern Italy. In DBA terms it’s pretty interesting with the Aghlabids (III/33), Byzantines (III/64), Lombards (III/21b) (Baueda have an inspiring page here), Norman adventurers (III/51), and the Ottonians (III/52). My Early Hungarians would get a look in (especially when I morph them to a Magyar army) and the Bulgars are tempting.

I’ve also been wanting for a while to try out the new double based elements and flank support rules in DBA 3.0.

So, combining the two… my Nikephorean Byzantines were the obvious choice for the double based elements side. For ages I’ve not been able to get around to painting a couple of elements of irregular bows (3Bw), which will be very useful for a number of armies, but then I realised that I had them in my Early Hungarian army, so I cobbled together a Lombard army for 2nd Cannae . Basil Boioannes attacks Lombard rebels under Melus of Bari.

Basil Boioannes' wide deployment

Basil Boioannes’ wide deployment

The Lombards - an army I didn't know I had.

The Lombards – an army I didn’t know I had.

The Byzantines, unsurprisingly with their aggression of four, were the attackers. I put down a fair bit of terrain for the Lombards – two ploughed fields, a wood, an area of boggy ground, and a gentle hill. The dice spread the terrain pretty evenly around the table. Basil elected to attack from a comparatively open edge of the mat, leaving Melus with quite a constrained area to set up in.

Basil’s first PIP roll was an uninspiring 1. That led to the fields becoming rough going, but they were out of the way anyway. The Byzantines moved forward. The Lombards used their first turn to begin trying to spread out. Specifically I wanted to get Melus’s bows into the woods to harass any potential Byzantine flank attack.

The Byzantines started a flank attack by sending cavalry around the bog, with their solitary psiloi making a double move into it.

The Byzantines got themselves into a bit of a fix on the other flank, their skutatoi (8Bw) were trading arrows with the Lombards in the woods, but they didn’t really have the PIPS to move so as to combine their shooting effectively. Shooting arcs are somewhat reduced in v3.0 compared with v2.2. In v3.0 the Target Edge, a ½ base width portion of one of the target elements’ edges, must be entirely within a zone which is 1 base width either side of the Shooting Edge, and  entirely within range. In 2.2 there was more latitude. Most people played it that you could shoot at an element if any of it was in the zone and in range, while some played it that if some of the element was in range but not in the zone, and some was in the zone but not in range then that was OK too. The Lombards managed to recoil and later destroy the skutatoi on the Byzantines’ extreme right, and then their main body charged into contact.

The skutatoi and the Lombard bows exchange shooting, while in the background you can just make out the Byzantine flank attack.

The skutatoi and the Lombard bows exchange shooting, while in the background you can just make out the Byzantine flank attack.

The Lombard Sp gave a good account of themselves, thanks in part to their flank support bonus, destroying a skutatoi and recoiling Basil and the Varangian guard, but losing to the klibanophoroi who in DBA 3.0 have 4 factors against infantry. I had set up the Byzantine skutatoi as one block, with the Varangians (4Bd) on one end of the line. That was probably a mistake as only one of the skutatoi could then take advantage of the flank support bonus. I’ve played against a Hundred Years War style, alternating archers and men-at-arms, formation in DBA 2.2 and I found it pretty easy to beat, but that formation might have more merit in 3.0.

The results of the eventful combat in the Lombards' turn 4.

The results of the eventful combat in the Lombards’ turn 4.

Basil pulled back so that the klibanophoroi could slip in and engage the Lombard spearmen facing him, and once again they won. Meanwhile the cavalry that had swept around the Lombards’ left managed to destroy the knights that had been moved to try to stop them. The game now hung in the balance!

Melus managed an energetic 6 PIPs. The Lombards did fairly well in combat, recoiling the Varangians and klibanophoroi, but crucially, supported by an element of bows, Lombard knights destroyed the last element of Skutatoi. That brought the game to a 4-3 win to the Lombards, since the first double based element lost counts as two.

The Lombards complete their victory

The Lombards complete their victory

In DBA 2.2 the Nikephorean Byzantines were one of those armies that looked great, and had lots of inspiring history behind them, but didn’t play so well. The klibanophoroi couldn’t turn, the skutatoi couldn’t fight infantry, etc. Reading 3.0 I was worried that they would now be too tough, but that’s not so. Certainly they are an improvement, but the skutatoi are still overmatched by lines of heavy foot, and the klibanophoroi, whilst being more manoeuvrable in 3.0, just don’t physically fit into some gaps. Foibles aside, though, the Nikephoreans are a more fun army to field in DBA 3.0, and my First Millennium gaming looks like it has legs.


9 responses to “2nd Cannae with DBA 3.0

  1. Very interesting. I am curious to see how double-based elements play in DBA 3.0. As solid bow, the flank support of the 4Bd would make the 8Bw quite resilient to foot.

    • Yes that blade support would be handy, so would breaking up the enemy line with archery before contact is made. The presence of the Lombard bows was an inconvenience for the Byzantines, since the skutatoi were forced to exchange shooting with them rather than shooting at the spearmen.

      • One of the things I take a while to get used to shifting from Ancient to Medieval games is the use of bows. Used badly they are very weak, but it seems easy to make mistakes in using them.

    • Thanks. The much improved BUA rules in DBA 3.0 have made me very tempted to put together a hamlet for my Italian games to make the battlefield even prettier. I have some nice buildings waiting patiently in the painting queue, and I should do some ploughed fields too. I have two sets of terrain – very portable stuff made of felt, and less portable but prettier stuff. My ploughed fields are currently only of the portable variety.

  2. We need more battle reports like this! Very much back into DBA after a long absence! Great post- inspired to research more into era!
    Mike B

    • I need to play more DBA too. The turn of the 11th century was an interesting time, thanks to the variety of players all wanting their slice of that little corner of the world. Maybe they all realised they had time on their hands since the apocalypse in 1000 AD had been cancelled?

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